CHEETAHS: A PREDATOR S ROLE IN THE ECOSYSYTEM C H E E T A H C O N S E R V A T I O N F U N D

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1 CHEETAHS: A PREDATOR S ROLE IN THE ECOSYSYTEM

2 Background food chains Cats and the Energy Cycle: The speed of a cheetah and the strength of a lion aid them in catching their prey. Big cats are predators and play an important role in the energy cycle, fitting in with the overall balance of life. Every animal needs to get its energy from somewhere; food chains illustrate where a plant or animal gets its energy from within its habitat. A single food chain does not show all the sources of energy for an organism, merely examples. A food web, which is more complicated, takes into account all sources of energy between organisms within a given habitat. Therefore one can say that it is a compilation of all the food chains within a habitat. How does Energy Cycle work? FOOD WEB & FOOD CHAIN: The sun is the source of energy within a food chain or web. Plants, one of the few organisms on earth that can transfer the sun's energy to make their own food, are called producers. The producers support all other life on earth, whether directly or indirectly. Herbivores (primary consumers) are the next step in the energy cycle; they consume only plants in order to get their energy. Herbivores include giraffe, antelope, many rodents, sheep, goats and cattle and are especially adapted to gathering, grinding and digesting plants. Some concentrate on only parts of the plants such as leaves, seeds, bark and / or roots. The next step in the energy cycle is the carnivores (secondary consumers). Carnivores are those animals that eat only other animals in order to get energy and include cats, dogs, birds of prey, sharks and some snake species. Omnivores are designed to obtain energy from a variety of sources, both animal and plant. Some examples of omnivores are pigs, porcupine and badgers. When plants and animals die, the energy still contained within their bodies is fed on by scavengers, beginning the process of decomposition. Other organisms known as decomposers (insects, fungi, and bacteria) recycle dead organisms back into nutrients and soil. The energy cycle then begins anew as the plants use the nutrients and soil to grow. Thus the food web is the cycle of energy through a habitat. FOOD PYRAMID: While food chains and food webs depict energy interrelationships, food pyramids show the relative amounts of producers, herbivores and carnivores within a habitat. Plants are the most numerous organisms; they have a permanent source of energy in the sun. Producers collectively weigh the most and hold the most energy, thereby forming the base of the food pyramid. Herbivores form the next level on the food pyramid as they obtain their energy directly from the producers. Due to the fact that energy is lost at each step of the pyramid, there will always be less herbivores than producers and less carnivores (the top step of the pyramid) than herbivores. Energy is lost at each step as some is not consumed, some is not digested and some is used to carry out bodily processes. Why are these relationships (food webs and pyramids) so important? Food webs and pyramids stress the important role of every creature by illustrating the interdependencies which exist in nature. Remove a part of the web of pyramid and the balance of nature will break. Each component depends on the other in the cycle of energy.

3 Teaching the Lesson Activity 1 discussion & food pyramid Review the food chain background information provided, then explain the concepts to learners using the diagrams below. FOOD CHAIN Cheetah Rabbit FOOD WEB Cheetah Wild Dog Springbok Rabbit FOOD PYRAMID Carnivores Herbivores Producers Grass Leaves Grass (Arrows indicate what organism preys on another organism. If you want to show the flow of energy through the system reverse the direction of the arrows) Using the Food Chain Picture Page, cut out the pictures. Paste the pictures on separate pages under the appropriate headings of Producer, Primary Consumer/Herbivore, and Secondary Consumer/Carnivore. -OR- Hand out the food chain picture page to each group of learners and have learners write down the headings on a sheet of paper, filling the names of the animals shown on the picture page under the appropriate heading. The learners hand in the picture page after the activity, allowing you to reuse them for the next group. Activity 2 food chain Use the Food Chain Picture Page handout. Divide the class into three groups. Each group must use the pictures on this page (either cut out pictures or just the names of pictures) to form a food chain and food web. Each group is then given an opportunity to present to the class explaining why they used the pictures they did. (Alternatively they can just write the names of the organism down in a diagram as above, allowing you to reuse the picture page.)

4 Activity 3 assemble a food pyramid Have each learner bring in an empty soda can or tin can. Have learners also bring pictures from magazines of plants, antelope, dogs, cats, etc (i.e. examples of producers, herbivores and predators) prior to the lesson. -OR- Hand out the Food Chain Picture Page for the learners to cut out and use. Break the class into groups of six learners with one Food Chain Picture Page and six cans per group. Briefly explain the concepts of food pyramids to the learners. Then ask them to assemble a food pyramid of their own using the cans and pictures. Each pyramid should have a base of three cans each with a producer, the second level should consist of two cans with herbivores and one can with a carnivore on top. Let each group present their food pyramid to the class, describing the kinds of organisms that are a part of their food pyramid and the ways they depend on each other for energy. Groups should use the words: producers, herbivores, carnivores; and understand the energy flow through the pyramid. As an entire class, construct one giant pyramid from each groups' pyramids. Discuss the importance of maintaining balance in habitat. If one can is removed from the pyramid the whole system weakens or collapses. Stress the importance of each individual animal to the natural world. Assessment Learner was mostly Learner could correct in their correctly recall classifications information showing some lack necessary to build of recall of the pyramid, information correctly classifying discussed the animals Learner did not show understanding of information in the building of their pyramid Learner showed a deeper understanding of the pyramid built. The pyramid was built accurately with correct classifications

5 FOOD CHAIN PICTURE PAGE CHEETAH CONSERVATION FUND 2012

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